Author: Rebecca Priestley

I have a PhD in the history & philosophy of science and I write about science and science history. I live in New Zealand.

Want to be a science writer?

Ashleigh Young and Rebecca Priestley are teaching CREW352: Creative Science Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters again this year. Past students have included undergraduate science and humanities students, experienced writers and journalists, environmental advocates and practising scientists. Students on the course have written engaging non-fiction stories about science and had these stories published in literary journals such as Sport, Overland and Landfall, in the student magazine Salient, and in industry journals such as Organic New Zealand magazine and books such as Tell You What: Great NZ Fiction 2014. Other students have used the course to kickstart a book-length project.

Here are some links to some online stories you can read that were written and workshopped as part of CREW352.

The albatross in the cupboard by Nina Powles on Te Papa blogs

Four circles by Sarah Bainbridge in Landfall

Simply air vibrating by Simon Gennard in Overland

Is it getting hot in here? By Bronte Ammundsen in Salient

Applications for this year’s workshop close this 21 June. You can find out more about how to apply here: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/modernletters/study/how-to-apply

 

We’re looking for a special someone to join our Science in Society team

For the last two years we (Rhian and Rebecca) have been getting by on a lot of adrenalin and with the support of an army of awesome tutors: but now we have new courses to launch and new plans to hatch and we need someone else to join our small, dynamic team. This is an 18-month full time teaching position, with full details below. This job could suit someone who’s been working as a high-school science teacher, or someone with a science PhD and a real interest in and commitment to teaching, or someone with a science degree and experience in online education.

Here are the details on the job ad:

Senior Tutor in Science in Society, Faculty of Science (18 month fixed term position)

Our small dynamic team seeks a senior tutor with a background in science, interest and/or experience in digital learning technologies, project management skills, and confidence in delivering online courses. The appointee will have excellent organisational, communication and interpersonal skills, a demonstrated understanding of science and its role in society, and experience working with students and academics.

The appointee will coordinate an innovative and flexible online general science course that will be delivered to first year university students, teachers, and high school students and will utilize the latest online technologies and pedagogies. The appointee will be at the forefront of strategic development and delivery of large, online courses (including MOOCs) at Victoria University and will be expected to engage with a range of internal and external stakeholders representing educational technology, instructional design, and secondary and tertiary education. In addition, the appointee will support existing initiatives of the Science in Context teaching programme, including supporting online courses and related outreach.

Depending on the appointee’s background, opportunities exist to develop and teach online modules on Antarctic science, environmental science, and other contemporary issues in science and society.

We encourage applications from a range of candidates including, for example, science teachers, people with a higher degree in science and demonstrated interest in teaching, and educational technologists/ instructional designers with a demonstrated science literacy.

The position is for a fixed term of 18 months with an immediate start date.

Contact Details for Vacancy: Rhian Salmon, Programme Director for Science in Context, Faculty of Science

Applications close 5 June 2015 Reference 634

Full details on how to apply are here http://www.victoria.ac.nz/about/careers/current-vacancies

Call for papers: Finding New Zealand’s Scientific Heritage

Venue: Victoria University of Wellington
Date: 23-24 November 2015

2015 is a significant year for New Zealand science history. It is 150 years since James Hector arrived in Wellington to set up many of our national science organisations and 100 years since Ernest Marsden arrived in Wellington.

In 1865 Hector was appointed head of the New Zealand Geological Survey, with his responsibilities eventually including the Colonial Museum, Colonial Observatory, Meteorological Service, Colonial Botanic Gardens, and the New Zealand Institute. In 1915, Marsden arrived in New Zealand to be professor of physics at Victoria University. He stayed in this position for seven years then, in 1926, was appointed head of New Zealand’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, a position he held until 1946.

In 1983, The Royal Society of New Zealand and the Alexander Turnbull Library ran a conference In Search of New Zealand’s Scientific Heritage. In the more than 30 years since this date there have been significant research and publications into New Zealand’s science history but there is still much to explore. The 2015 anniversaries invite a renewed focus on New Zealand’s science history and provide momentum leading up to the Royal Society of New Zealand’s 150th anniversary in 2017 and the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the first European scientists in 2019.

The conference committee invites proposals for individual papers, panels, and posters for Finding New Zealand’s Scientific Heritage, 23-24 November 2015.

International keynote speaker:

Why History Matters: Perspectives from the Recent History of Science by Professor Naomi Oreskes
Various scholars have argued for the pertinence of historical perspectives to understanding contemporary issues, but historians of science have, until recently, been mostly loathe to inject themselves into contemporary debates. One reason for this is the belief that an important contribution of our field is the understanding of how different “science” in the past was from its present configuration. It is not merely that our ideas about the world have changed, but also that our beliefs as to how we learn about the world have changed, too. Neither the definition of what constitutes “science,” nor the methods that have been considered “scientific,” have been stable over time; one can discern major changes even within the past century.  Yet, despite this, prominent historians of science, myself included, have not only used history to illuminate contemporary debates, but have provided unique and important insights and perspectives. This paper explores how we have done so, and how such efforts can both contribute to society and strengthen our field as an intellectual endeavor.

Professor Naomi Oreskes

Professor Naomi Oreskes

Professor Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University
Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, and an internationally renowned geologist, science historian, and author.

Oreskes is the author of many scholarly and popular books and articles on the history of earth and environmental science, including The Rejection of Continental Drift (Oxford, 1999), Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s History of the Modern Theory of the Earth (Westview, 2003), and The Collapse of Western Civilization (Columbia University Press, 2014). For the past decade, Oreskes has been primarily interested in the science and politics of anthropogenic climate change. Her 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt, How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming, co-authored with Erik M. Conway, was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Watson-Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. The film version was released in late 2014.

Oreskes’s current research projects include completion of a scholarly book on the history of Cold War Oceanography, Science on a Mission: American Oceanography from the Cold War to Climate Change (Chicago, forthcoming), and Assessing Assessments: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Scientific Assessments for Environmental Policy in the Late 20th Century. She has lectured widely and won numerous prizes, including the 2009 Francis Bacon Medal for outstanding scholarship in the history of science and technology, the 2011 Climate Change Communicator of the Year, and the 2014 American Geophysical Union Presidential Citation for Science and Society.

Other speakers and sessions:
Simon Nathan: James Hector and contemporaries: the H-connection and the 19th century web of science
Rebecca Priestley: “A place among the immortals”: Ernest Marsden and his 20th century scientific networks
Panel discussion: The future of science in New Zealand: new areas for history of science research. This panel, of scientists and historians, will explore future challenges for science in New Zealand as a way of illuminating priorities for research into the history of science.

Call for papers
We are interested in receiving proposals for papers, full sessions/panels, and posters on any topic around the history of New Zealand science, including but not limited to:

Scientists and their disciplines, such as

  • James Hector and his life in science
  • Ernest Marsden and his life in science
  • Hector’s scientific mentors and contemporaries, eg, Colenso, Hochstetter, Haast, others
  • Marsden’s scientific mentors and contemporaries, eg, Rutherford, Fleming, Cotton, others
  • Histories of the natural, physical and social sciences in New Zealand
  • Hector’s and Marsden’s legacy in New Zealand today
  • New Zealand scientists working overseas
  • Matauranga Maori in 19th and 20th century Aotearoa New Zealand

Scientific institutions and networks

  • Histories of the New Zealand Geological Survey, Colonial Museum, Meteorological Service, Colonial Observatory, Colonial Botanic Gardens
  • Histories of the DSIR and its constituent agencies
  • Other histories of New Zealand science, scientists, science organisations and museums
  • The mobility of scientists during wartime, changing networks and connections
  • Indigenous knowledge meets European science

History of science as a discipline

  • Books, blogs, and tweets: popularising the history of science in New Zealand
  • Sources and records of science: challenges and opportunities for the 21st century scholar
  • Painting the scientist: portrayals of scientists in New Zealand art, literature and film

Science in Society

  • Historical perspectives on contemporary issues in science and society
  • Histories of science education
  • New Zealand: “more than any other country made by science”?
  • Future challenges for history of science
Illustration accompanying T. W. Kirk's 1887 paper

Illustration accompanying T. W. Kirk’s 1887 paper “Brief Description of a New Species of Large Decapod: Architeuthis longimanus”. From rsnz.natlib.govt.nz

Special issues of the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand
The JRSNZ has dedicated two issues of the journal to the history of science in New Zealand. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to submit papers to these special issues, which will be co-edited by Rebecca Priestley and Simon Nathan, for publication in 2017. Deadline for submissions will be December 2015.

Key dates:

Call for papers: closes 30 June 2015

Draft programme available: 1 August 2015

Registrations open: 1 August 2015

Earlybird (discounted) registrations close: 30 September 2015

Full fee registrations will continue to be available through October and November.

Submission of abstracts
Please send abstracts (300-400 words) to the convenor of the programme committee, Jim McAloon, at Jim.McAloon@vuw.ac.nz. Papers will be accepted on a rolling basis, please expect to hear back within 10 working days.

For more information please contact the conference convenor, Rebecca Priestley, at NZhistsci2015@vuw.ac.nz.

 #NZhistsci2015

Call for papers issued 30 March 2015

Click here to download a printable pdf of this Call for Papers: Call for Papers 2015 histsci

Antarctica online: return from the ice

Cliff talks about the geology of the Transantarctic Mountains, from a great viewing spot on Friis Hills. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Cliff talks about the geology of the Transantarctic Mountains, from a great viewing spot on Friis Hills. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Cliff and I are back from the ice, and have started editing our field footage and putting our lectures together. Thanks to a fabulous video camera (Canon XF100) and some incredible locations (and hopefully some interesting commentary from us) it’s all looking really great. One of the only problems I’ve noticed so far, is that in some of the Friis Hills footage, the sound is so perfect (there was no ambient sound at all, not a breath of wind and … well, there’s nothing else there to make a noise) and the background so incredible and the light so perfect that it looks totally fake, like Cliff’s about to swing his arm around and go through the green screen. But it was real. I need to keep reminding myself that.

We’re planning to have the online course ready to go by middle of this year. We’ll keep you posted on details.

Here are some pictures from the second week on the ice:

Scott Base: apart from when we were glamping up at Friis Hills, this was our home in Antarctica. Thanks Antarctica New Zealand! Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Scott Base: apart from when we were glamping up at Friis Hills, this was our home in Antarctica. Thanks Antarctica New Zealand! Photo Rebecca Priestley.

On the way to Cape Evans, cracks in the sea ice meant we needed to lay a bridge before driving over. Photo Rebecca Priestley

On the way to Cape Evans, cracks in the sea ice meant we needed to lay a bridge before driving over. Photo Rebecca Priestley

Happy Place: inside Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Happy Place: inside Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Top of Observation Hill. Great location for lecture about Scott's journey to the Pole, and the men who waited for him to return. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Top of Observation Hill. Great location for lecture about Scott’s journey to the Pole, and the men who waited for him to return. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Rebecca films while Cliff Atkins interview Nick Golledge, from the Antarctic Research Centre.

Rebecca films while Cliff Atkins talks to geologist/glaciologist Nick Golledge, from the Antarctic Research Centre.

A very cold classroom

In Norway, they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Back home in New Zealand, I wouldn’t tolerate giving a lecture in minus 8 degrees C – or minus 17 if you take the windchill into account. But down here at Scott Base, that’s just fine, because I’m dressed for the weather. Cliff and I have settled in – we’ve been running around with the camera trying to catch what we can of our K001 team, led by Tim Naish from the Antarctic Research Centre and Richard Levy from GNS, as they prep for their trip to Friis Hills. We’ve also gathered general footage from around Scott Base, McMurdo Station (the annual Turkey Trots fun run) and the surrounding landscape. And we’ve started recording lectures. There’s still loads to do, but it’s great to have made  a start. I’m just about to run off to skidoo training – it will be great to have our own means of getting about – but here are a few pics.

We flew down in a Safair hercules - seven and a half hours from Christchurch. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

We flew down in a Safair hercules – seven and a half hours from Christchurch. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Prepping for a lecture: Module 1, Lecture 5: Surviving Antarctica. In this lecture I talk about food, fuel and transport and how these needs have been met in different ways over time.

Prepping for a lecture: Module 1, Lecture 5: Surviving Antarctica. In this lecture I talk about food, fuel and transport and how these needs have been met in different ways over time. Photo Rebecca Priestley.

Cliff has been getting some great outdoor footage so far - the camera is dealing really well with the white landscape.

Cliff has been getting some great outdoor footage so far – the camera is dealing really well with the white landscape. Photo Rebecca Priestley.